Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews yesterday announced that his government would be adopting a fresh round of measures to counter violent extremism in the state. The measures come from the recommendations of a review into the state’s counter terrorism laws by former Chief Commissioner of Police Ken Lay and former Supreme Court of Appeal Justice, the Honourable David Harper.
Among the measures are extending preventive dentition orders to minors and injection of $9.4 million series of community level responses to extremism which include Community Support Group pilots, community resilience grants, and establishing a think-tank to propose methods to promote social cohesion and the prevention of violent extremism in Victoria. The definition of a “terrorist act” will also change to remove motive as an essential element.
The state government has also created a new type of community order know as a Support and Engagement Order which enables Chief Commissioner of Police to apply for a Court order requiring a person displaying behaviours indicative of radicalisation and violence to participate in community disengagement programs.
When the public hears of such announcements they believe that they are in response to Islamic terrorism which is plaguing western nations. But during the press conference announcing these measures it was also stated that they intend to target those they believe engage in left and right wing extremism. Ken Lay stated “There are definitely signs that there are groups being organised and we need to understand exactly what the risks are, what we can put in place to prevent the risks to the community”.
Those engaging in political activism certainly should be worried about such language from our state government, it should also be noted that this is a government that has already been engaged in using the power of the state to silence political activists. The trial of the Bendigo Three who were found guilty earlier this of breaching the state’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act for a mock beheading their prosecution was not at the behest of a Islamic complainant but by the Director of Public Prosecutions themselves.
No doubt the Andrews’ government with its progressive agenda would love to target nationalist organizations such as United Patriots Front and Patriot Blue with these new powers under the guise of countering extremism, after all there were calls for police action after Patriot Blue’s confrontation of Sam Dastyari.
Earlier this year Daniel Andrews’ announced a series of anti-racism measures costing $1 million which included cracking down “unconscious bias” in the rental industry, on an alleged epidemic of racist abuse on public transport. Also, stronger complaint mechanisms so that reports of racism are acted on by authorities and anti-racism material included in the state government’s Respectful Relationships program in schools.
The desire of governments to crackdown on supposed right wing extremism is motivated by two factors, to give the illusion they are not just targeting the Islamic community and to also give the large national security and counter-terrorism forces they have created enough to do.
This has happened overseas with UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd recently announcing that part as of the the government’s new counter terrorism measures those regularly viewing extremist material on the internet could face jail sentences of up to 15 years. This included alleged far-right material with Rudd stating “I want to make sure those who view despicable terrorist content online, including jihadi websites, far-right propaganda and bomb-making instructions, face the full force of the law”.
The same thing could happen in Australia at a federal level with ASIO having prepared a briefing for the federal government on the activities of neo-Nazis in Australia as part of the quest for a fresh round of federal funding. ASIO stated they were concerned about “social discourse around anti-Islam and anti-migration issues had increased, with public protests for and against becoming more frequent and providing more opportunities for convergence between ideological adversaries”.
These new measures should also be opposed by left-wing activists as they were also stated in the press conference to be the target of these laws, although many would argue they are an appropriate target given how violent some of their protests are in the streets of Melbourne and groups such as Antifa should rightly be viewed as a terrorist organisation.
Everybody should watch the implementation of these counter extremism measures very closely and be rightly concerned about who might be targeted and question if they will actually keep us any safer? Even if you consider yourself a moderate political activist with reasonable views you should still be concerned about your rights.